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Tiger, Tiger: Caught by Surprise (Video) in India

Some people think I lead a charmed life, because I'm often on the road. I seldom write of biting insects, brutal heat, Verizon overcharges, boredom, dust, homesickness, insults, personal slights. I am not charmed. I've learned patience. The most powerful moments happen when you abandon hope. A Royal Benghal tiger in India taught me that.

When I was invited to explore Bhopal (in Madya Paresh), the center of this vast, churning country last fall,  I entered the sub-continent for the first time. I would go back again just to hang out with the warm-hearted, fascinating people and eat the fabulous cuisine (idlis, rice cakes with sambar being a favorite). But the big draw was the chance to see tigers in nearby Bandhavgarh National Park. Like many American children, I'd been brought up on adventure books by Kipling and studied William Blake's immortal lines: "Tiger, tiger burning bright/in the forests of the night."

Alas, tigers are elusive. Kipling spoke of "night" for good reason. Tigers are nocturnal. When I hopped into a giant safari vehicle in Bandhavgarh, I was warned that the tigers were savvy. They seemed to know that the park gates close at five p.m. and that humans must get out. In other words: Tigers, too, are patient. We knew they were somewhere in the park, because we could see their tracks in the road.



So we drove for hours through a dusty forest of drab trees and burned grass,  in a giant safari vehicle, very wide, filled with charming tourists from India. We had a lot of fun. But as the light started to dim in late afternoon, we wearied of our safari vehicle. Welost faith in our guide. We didn't believe him when he told us that the tigers would be out soon. He said he was sure, because they'd want to eat the spotted deer that suddenly seemed to be everywhere.

Another 45 minutes crawled by. I took a photo of a dead scorpion. I asked the women sitting next to me to teach me how to tie an Indian scarf.

"I wish I was in South Africa," she said. "I was there last year. They know how to do safaris!"

By this time, we had turned around and were racing toward the gates. Suddenly, we ground to a halt. "Tiger!" I heard our guide say. And there he was, watching us, from the center of the road. A huge, vibrant, gorgeous animal, blocking our way to the gate. He yawned. He got up and slowly, yes, like royalty, strolled around our vehicle. I felt like I could reach out my hand and touch him. It was worth the long flight from my home in Seattle, the heat, the dust, the insect bits. Check out this tiger. He will not disappoint:



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The Beauty of Hobbity New Zealand


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Persian horses gallop over sands of Iran

Today's escape: Abbas Azizpour, Twitter. "My land Darehshar, west of Iran."
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Secret of Madrid's beloved rearing horse statue



First-ever statue of a horse rearing up on two legs, Madrid's beloved artwork from 1640. See the pigeon perched by the ears? Birds perch on this baroque masterpiece all day. What keeps it from toppling over? Michelangelo couldn't solve this riddle but Galileo did the math and artist Pietro Tacca weighted it properly. Felipe IV is the rider.
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Whale Watching Above the Arctic Circle

Merry Christmas from Tromso, Norway. I wish you many adventures this year.
Photo credit, Northern Lights, Chasing Lights
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Why Madagascar's Is Paradise for Wild Animal Junkies


I love the very idea of Madagascar, Wild animals plus adventures in remote lands is my favorite thing. Ring-tailed lemurs? Elaborate reptiles? I'm there. Please enjoy this trip to the eighth continent by Giovanna Fasanelli for Apex Expeditions:

It is so hard to describe to people who have never set foot on ‘The Eighth Continent’ what they are in for on a Madagascar Safari. But if you are an animal junkie, and have watched Attenborough’s documentary series entitled Madagascar, you may just have an inkling of what’s in store.

Some 90 million years ago, the piece of the Gondwana puzzle known today as India broke loose from the east coast of Madagascar, leaving the world’s fourth largest island lying in splendid isolation. Soon enough, animals began to arrive, either by air, swimming, or by rafting the distance on platforms of vegetation washed out from continental neighbors. The stage was set for one of the greatest radiations of life this planet has ever seen, millennia of evolution yielding over 12,000 species of flowering plants, around half of the world’s chameleons and a spectacular number of amphibians. Even more impressive, perhaps, are Madagascar’s lemurs, its tally of over 100 species placing it second only to Brazil in overall primate diversity. Add to these numbers the fact that over three quarters of every plant or animal species one encounters is found nowhere else on Earth, and one has a wildlife lover’s wonderland, every day being a treasure trove of the most enthralling proportions.


As one of the most threatened biodiversity hotspots on the planet, this is a destination to prioritize… YESTERDAY! It is changing at a disconcerting rate and forest reserves and national parks take each day as they come under an ever-changing government or lack thereof. People are breeding fast and people are starving. The animals and plants living in some areas are protected by local fady or taboos, but those in other areas are not. Due to massive deforestation, native wildlife is now restricted to pockets of indigenous vegetation, less than 5% of which still stands, making these relic populations all the more precious. There can be no more important destination for the discerning eco-traveller, and no more valuable a place to spend eco-dollars in support of conservation. There’s no doubt you will come away from visiting this country with bitter-sweet feelings for you will have touched the immense diversity and the extraordinary uniqueness of this evolutionary laboratory, and felt too, the desperation of its story.

Madagascar Safari with Apex Expeditions from Apex Expeditions on Vimeo.

In the areas that have been set aside, treasures, of the creature variety, are waiting behind every leaf… you just have to know where to look! Here are a few of my absolute scream-out-loud favourite creatures of Madagascar, which is a tough ask as there are literally dozens!

My first one is none other than the Ring-tailed Lemur. Ok, so no originality awards for me, but I have to nominate them as they truly are ineffably lovable. I haven’t known a traveller yet who hasn’t fallen head over heels! One afternoon at Berenty Reserve I was on my belly photographing a family group as they were nonchalantly walking past me when I felt a light touch on my back. A Ring-tailed had come up and just placed his little hand on me as if to say a very casual “Hey… what cha doin?”. I instantly melted into the ground… whilst he waddled off. It’s those moments that one never forgets.

The Painted Mantella Frog (Mantella madagascariensis) is another stunner resembling the poison arrow frogs of South America. Their skin secretes toxins and the bright colours warn predators to stay away. Talk about convergent evolution! The local guides know just where to find these beauties after which a brief photo shoot ensues! There are some 170 species of frogs on the island with new additions being found all the time.

It is no secret that a Madagascar expedition reveals some of the world’s most elaborate reptiles: a herpetologist’s veritable wonderland. The night walks/treasure hunts along the road at Ranomafana are the most fun you’ll have! The local guides really show off their spotting skills as they pull out all kinds of creatures for the trip list. When our guide found this creature I actually did let out a scream as it was a dream of mine to see one in the wild. May I introduce to you Uroplatus phantasticus – the Fantastic Leaf-tailed Gecko. Appearing like nothing other than a dried up dead leaf fallen over a low-slung branch, this creature lit up under camera flash exposing satanic red eyes. I wonder how many people had walked right past this rarely-seen, stealthy beast and been none the wiser.

For the finale I offer the apex predator of Madagascar: the Fosa (pronounced foosa or foosh). In late October to early November these powerful carnivores can be seen mating in the trees of the hot western forests. I would need 2000 more words to tell you about this captivating creature and how exhilarating it was to witness the spectacle. This odd weasel/panther-like beast measures two metres in length of which half is tail used for balancing in the trees as it runs down lemurs.

Discover the incredible magic this island holds soon… you will undoubtedly be bedazzled.

About the Author: 
Giovanna Fasanelli is one of the Co-Founders and Field Leaders for Apex Expeditions, which specializes in biologically and culturally unique travel experiences that explore the world’s most fascinating places—from Madagascar safaris to Brazil Amazon tours and Raja Ampat diving adventures. Their expeditions are inspired by a passion for true exploration and a desire to better understand our ever-changing and increasingly threatened planet. Each year, the selection of expeditions offered changes, providing unique year-to-year travel experiences.

Photos:  Giovanna Fasanelli 
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Fun in the Water: Diving to Rafting, Snohomish County, Washington

Washington State is beautiful on the ground--snow-capped volcanoes, fir-tipped islands, wildflower meadows, rolling wheat fields--but it truly shines when you combine all that with rushing water. Here are two fun ways to get wet in Snohomish County, just north of Seattle, this summer. To drill down on these adventures, check out the Snohomish County Visitors Bureau. 


1. Scuba diving in Edmonds, Washington (home to famous world traveler, Rick Steves). See the ferry below? For years, I rode it from Edmonds to  the Kitsap Peninsula, and then drove west until I hit Washington's wild Pacific Ocean beaches. But, look what I was missing right by the ferry dock. These divers are about to plunge into the bountiful, 27-acre Edmonds UnderWater Park, the most popular of the Washington's 10 underwater parks. 

Scuba dive down to the the nature trails and you'll see sunken vessels and "enormous lingcod, cabezons, spotted ratfish, various greenlings and rockfish, seaperch, gobys, sculpins, flounders, sole, eelpouts, Dungeness, red rock, kelp and hermit crabs, horse clams, geoducks, scallops, heart cockles, moon snail, giant pacific & red octopus, sea cucumbers, and numerous species of anemones, sea stars, urchin, nudibranchs, shrimp and seaweed."


2. Rafting.  I've rafted/kayaked all over the world, last year in Chile, but have barely scraped the surface in Washington State. Who knew the liftoff town of Index, was only an hour's drive from my Seattle home? This summer I rafted the Skykomish River with AdventureConnect and the Outdoor Adventures Center, a half-day, nine-mile shoot through the rapids, ending in a hot tub and steak feast in the company's Index headquarters.

The water was so warm that we got to jump out of our rafts at one point and swim around (albeit in neoprene suits), a rarity in these parts. I discovered that you can also snorkel with spawning salmon in the Skykomish later in the year.

Outdoor Adventures has two other adventures on my bucket list: 1. saltwater kayaking near Lopez Island. 2. Rafting the Sauk River, up in the North Cascades. Also try one of my favorite adventures: raft the Skagit River during eagle season to see the nesting birds. There's lots more water in Snohomish County. See you in Index (below).



Photo credits: Top photos, Snohomish County Tourism Bureau. Bottom photo: Outdoor Adventures. Index: Candace Dempsey 
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Val D'Orica: High on Tuscany

I came to Italy's Val D' Orica for the first time with my son, Jacob, to ride horses--only to learn that the horses were too spirited for mere amateurs to ride. Since we'd signed on for a week, we had to learn how to relax. The longer we stayed in this rarified air, enjoying this spartan beauty, the easier it became. No wonder it's a UNESCO World Heritage site and a summer playground for rich people from Rome:

"Gently-rolling hills covered in the dense vegetation of vineyards, olive groves, cypresses, beech and chestnut trees alternate with Medieval habitations, rural villas and castles boasting impervious towers – all of which is diffused in a tranquilly-isolated nature. This is the scenario that is laid out before the eyes of the visitor to Val d’Orcia – just as evocative in real life as it is when depicted by the Sienese Masters." 
A photo posted by Landscapes | Travel | Animals (@naturerad) on
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